Television Reviews

REVIEW: Game of Thrones – Season 8, Episode 1 “Winterfell”

“Did you bend the knee to save the North or because you love her?”

Winter is here! Real-life time passage aside, Game of Thrones is back for its final season, and that means our bones are chilling despite the temperature. These last six episodes promise to be the most epic of all, and we hope you’ll stop by each week to see us chat about them (and join the discussion in the comments). The war begins here!

*SPOILERS*

In “Winterfell,” Jon Snow comes home, bringing with him Tyrion, Daenerys, and the greatest army the world has ever seen. Tensions quickly arise as some of the locals, Sansa included, aren’t thrilled with their new Targaryen Queen. Meanwhile, Euron Greyjoy arrives at King’s Landing with the Golden Company and an imprisoned Yara in tow. However, Cersei isn’t satisfied with the offering, having been expecting elephants. Regardless, she gives in to his sexual advances. Qyburn brings Bronn a proposition from Cersei. Theon frees Yara from Euron, she returning to the Iron Islands, and he to Winterfell to aid Jon.

Back in Winterfell, Davos discusses with Tyrion and Varys the possibility of a marriage between Jon and Daenerys to unite the people. Daenerys tells Jon that Sansa doesn’t have to be her friend, but she must respect her Queen. The two go for a ride on the dragons. Arya visits Gendry in the forge and finds the Hound there. Daenerys is forced to reveal to Sam what became of his brother and father. Bran sits outside, remarking that he’s waiting for an old friend. Sam tells Jon the truth about his lineage, leaving him with some difficult decisions. Baric, Tormund, and the others search the remains of the wall for survivors and find a disturbing message. Jaime Lannister arrives at the home of the Starks and finds Bran there, waiting.

Game of Thrones, Winterfell, Sansa

Alex: I liked “Winterfell” quite a bit. It’s one of Game of Thrones’ usual setup episodes that start each season, but it’s one of the best ones. While it’s mostly just people talking to each other, everyone involved has either never met or not seen each other in ages, so each encounter feels important, and the episode isn’t slow.

Virginia: I enjoyed this episode as well. I really like the dynamic between Daenerys and the Northerners; it’s a timely plot element in the sense that we can all relate to wanting our own local leaders rather than someone we don’t know and trust. I watch this show with my parents and my husband, and I found it interesting how everyone reacted differently to these scenes. Personally, I can see Sansa’s point very well, both about the food supply and the people wanting Jon in charge.

A: Daenerys is my favorite (next to Tyrion), but I sympathize with Sansa and the other Northerners too. The decision to let someone else rule over them was made without their knowledge or consent by the guy they actually did choose to lead them. I think anyone would feel betrayed. I know Jon was caught between a rock and a hard place, but that doesn’t mean their position isn’t fair. I like that Arya reminds him to remember he’s supposed to be loyal to the North; he is, but having someone who loves him that much voice her concerns should clue him in to how everyone else feels and that their fears are legitimate.

V: Overall, I’ve had mixed feelings about Daenerys throughout the seasons. I liked her a lot in the beginning, but at times it feels to me like she’s become the kind of bully she was often faced with. I don’t like how she burns through all her obstacles, and they’ve made it a point more than once to show that diplomacy isn’t her strong suit. My favorite of the female characters has been Sansa for a few years now. She was set up as a spoiled brat who didn’t appreciate what she had, and at least so far, she’s had the most satisfying character development in my opinion. I also feel like Daenerys and Arya, in particular, were created specifically to be fan favorites if that makes sense, and that bothers me on some level. Sansa represents a different kind of woman who fans love to bash in all fandoms: Harry Potter’s Fleur, various Disney Princesses and Bond girls come to mind. It seems like viewers have some kind of knee-jerk reaction to girly girls in media, and I think Sansa has been a victim of this at times.

A: I like Sansa too, and she’s had a very compelling arc. She’s shown what somewhere like Westeros does to childhood innocence; she started as a girl who just wanted to marry a prince, but the world wouldn’t let her indulge her dreams. Now she has to suppress that, if it even exists in her anymore, to survive and to lead. I’m glad the series has her, Arya, and Daenerys to show all different kinds of characters and to make them all flawed; it shows the strengths and shortcomings of all types instead of just falling into easy tropes. And one of Daenerys’ flaws, particularly later on, is her growing entitlement. She had to fight and struggle to become strong, and now that she has power she’ll destroy anyone she thinks wants to take it away from her. What’s great about “Winterfell” is that she finally has to face someone who is now suffering because she refused to curb her violent streak.

V: That’s a good point, and I wonder if comparisons to her father, the Mad King, are coming courtesy of the Northerners. You also make a good point about different kinds of people being represented. I’ve seen a lot of TV series where you have two female characters, a traditionally feminine one and a tomboy. Thrones paints a much more vivid and varied picture; even Cersei had a redeeming trait in the form of her love for her children. Of course, that’s gone now, but none of them were ever perfect or completely bad in every way, though Cersei is the closest to either extreme (obviously the latter). Do you have any prediction regarding what’s going to happen with Jaime and Bran? I love the scene where they see each other.

Game of Thrones, Winterfell, Cersei

A: Jaime needs to change his pants; that’s for sure. I don’t see Bran taking any kind of revenge; he seems beyond that now that he’s the Three-Eyed Raven. He’ll probably needle Jaime (differently from how Arya would) and say something weird and creepy like what he said to Sansa last season, but I doubt it’ll go beyond that.

V: Interestingly, what Jaime did to Bran doesn’t even crack the top 10 list of his worst deeds, but this was a tense moment regardless. I really look forward to seeing how this all plays out with him coming to Winterfell to help. Personally, the plotline I found the least engaging in “Winterfell” was Cersei and Euron in King’s Landing. It may be because I don’t care about either of them or Cersei’s other allies, but nothing unexpected happens with them nonetheless. I kind of chuckled at how she said he would have to earn her, then doesn’t make him do so. I’ve thought that her pregnancy is a hoax, but if she is pregnant for real, this situation is certainly advantageous; she can now claim the baby to be Euron’s rather than her brother’s. Speaking of, I’m going to be pissed if Bronn follows through with trying to kill Tyrion and Jaime.

A: I hadn’t thought about that; I was wondering what could be going on with the pregnancy, considering she’s still drinking wine like she owns stock in a vineyard. It’s funny to think that, now that she finally can admit her next child is Jaime’s, she’s choosing to disguise its true parentage once again. Euron is a thoroughly despicable guy, and I kind of hoped he’d never get his queen. I imagine she’ll do away with him as soon as she no longer needs him (if he lasts that long), and it’ll be a pleasure to watch him be shut up. I doubt Bronn will go through with the assassination; he likes Tyrion and Jaime too much, and even though he’s a mercenary, I can’t see him betraying them. I can definitely see him pretend to take Cersei up on her offer, though, because he likes him some money.

V: Offering to pay him up front wasn’t very smart. I agree about Euron being complete trash, and while I was convinced that the pregnancy was a hoax, now I think she probably only had sex with him so she can claim him as the baby’s father. Cersei does lots of disgusting things behind closed doors, and lots out in the open too, but at the end of the day, she needs people to like and support her, at least to an extent. I’m sure it’ll happen very close to the end of the season, but I really look forward to seeing how they end her reign. Theon rescuing Yara from Euron was a satisfying moment, but isn’t it kind of unfair that he was blamed in the first place? What was he supposed to do, take on Euron and all his men to protect her? I don’t like Theon, but that’s just unfair.

A: Yeah, she wouldn’t have been rescued if he didn’t escape. That part of “Winterfell” was probably my least favorite because the Greyjoys don’t interest me much. The rescue seemed fairly easy and felt like tying up a loose end so Theon could reunite with the Starks. It’ll be fun seeing the reception he gets; Sansa will probably be the most accepting, but I doubt Arya will want anything to do with him, and Jon is iffy on him. And I don’t want to predict too much, but I doubt Theon is going to make it out of this season alive.

V: I agree, and I feel the same way about Jaime. They’ll both be redeemed to an extent, but they still aren’t really “good guys,” and I can’t imagine them being spared. I think a whole lot of characters are going to die, and it’ll be interesting to see who. But I think the real question on everyone’s minds is whether or not Brienne will finally reciprocate Tormund’s advances, right? Right? OK, I’ll see myself out now.

Game of Thrones, Winterfell, Jaime

A: No, that’s fair. I have no idea; she seems to be disgusted by him, and I can’t tell if the show wants this to be a joke or a budding tale of star-crossed lovers. But the idea is too fun to dismiss entirely. And I also think you’re right about Jaime and Theon. I think Theon will die saving the Stark women; Jaime is a little harder to peg down, but I imagine he’ll be more or less on the good side from here. However, I like that they keep reminding us, through Bran and Edmure Tully two seasons ago, that Jaime is capable of great evil, and they all forget that at their peril. Same with Cersei (to a much larger degree), and Sansa telling Tyrion he’s a fool to trust her is one of the best scenes in “Winterfell.”

V: Yeah, she also seems to be incredulous at Jon and Daenerys for the same reason. From her time in King’s Landing, Sansa knows Cersei all too well and won’t underestimate her. And Cersei is proving her right every step of the way. It’s amazing how Cersei has managed to push away everyone who really knew her, even Jaime; after he went back to her after his travels with Brienne, I never thought he’d turn his back on her.

A: She really has become a monster, and she’s flipped the premise of the show completely. Until now, the different houses were playing a “game of thrones,” vying pettily for power while an army of zombie ice monsters was preparing to come in and kill everyone. But now, she feels like the truest threat of all, waiting in the wings for the heroes and the White Walkers to wipe each other out. She reminds me of Blofeld’s speech about the Siamese fighting fish in From Russia With Love, allowing her enemies to fight among themselves so she can finish off the marginal victor. It’s simultaneously the only play she has left and a very smart move. But she remains more than a mustache-twirling villain; if your guess about the baby is right, the tears she sheds after Euron leaves are likely for Jaime. She still loves him, but she won’t sacrifice her hard-won power for him, and after losing all her children, she’ll give up her brother/boyfriend too.

V: That’s a great catch about her similarity with Blofeld. I read a theory once that Cersei loves Jaime and even her children only because she sees them as an extension of herself, making her a true narcissist. I think Jaime’s love for her is very different; of course, it’s still gross and wrong, but I think he really loves her in a selfless way, and in season seven’s finale, you can see the pain and shock in his face when she threatens him. It comes as a surprise to him, even after so many years, that nobody is as important to Cersei as her own self. Tying back into Sansa’s arc, this is one way she ultimately diverged from Cersei’s influence once she saw her true colors. Sansa becomes less selfish and more concerned with her people as Cersei becomes more and more self-absorbed.

A: Very true. She seems to have mostly forgiven Theon for his betrayal, for example, whereas Cersei will apparently not forgive Jaime of his much-less-severe one. And Daenerys has been at a crossroads for the past couple of seasons, teetering between her desire to help people (which I believe is genuine) and her thirst for power. I think Sansa senses that in her, and after dealing with Cersei for so long, she doesn’t want to take a chance on someone who can go either way. That’s one of the marks of a good villain; she informs the arcs and struggles of the heroes.

V: Another great point. Cersei and Daenerys come from very different backgrounds, but they do have some things in common, now including incest, whether intentional or not. Some people have been speculating that Daenerys may end up becoming an obstacle herself, if not downright evil. I think that would be really interesting, but I’m not sure if they’d risk alienating her fans, of which there are many. What do you think?

Game of Thrones, Winterfell, Daenerys

A: I don’t think she will. In fact, “Winterfell” presents a way forward for her. Tyrion, Varys, and Davos discuss the North’s rejection of her and decide she’ll have to find a way to prove herself to them. Now that Jon knows he’s actually the rightful heir to the throne, I think her opportunity to win them over will be by abiding by that and stepping down for him (replete with “bend the knee” joke; I can’t imagine the writers being able to resist). It won’t come easy, of course, but if she ultimately does that, not only will they all respect her, but she’ll prove that she isn’t just out for power.

V: I’d definitely take that over them getting married. It’s bad enough seeing them kiss and sleep together; the idea of legitimizing it in marriage and eventual children is more than enough to elicit a groan. That would be interesting, but I wonder how many feminists it would enrage to see a woman leave power to be replaced by a man.

A: Probably all of them, but I think Game of Thrones may be one of the few things still more interested in telling a good story than making internet mobs nod. And ultimately, I don’t believe Jon will take the throne, or that anyone will. I tend to think it will be more that they split everything off into its own kingdom, rather than have a central ruler. That would be the best way to break the wheel. I also don’t see Jon and Daenerys getting together now that they know they’re family; they’re not as messed up as Cersei and Jaime, and eventually, you have to draw a line between the good guys and the bad guys. I wish they’d never gone down this road in the first place; have them like each other, but make it a mutual respect rather than getting the pretty people in bed together.

V: One of the things that bother me the most about it is that I know people who “ship” them and were happy when the first love scene occurred. Like, what? So it’s icky and evil for Cersei and Jaime to do it, but if it’s the heroes that makes it OK? In terms of story, we know they had no idea they were related and thus can’t be faulted, but this whole debacle has made me wonder about some people and the therapy they’re not getting. It’ll be interesting to see how the relationship ends, though I’m wondering if Daenerys won’t even care as much since incest was common amongst the Targaryens.

A: If anything, it seems more acceptable from Cersei and Jaime because they’re debased to begin with, and this is just one of the ways that manifests. And nobody else sees it as admirable; even Tywin was embarrassed by them and planned to separate them. Daenerys seems more “modern” (a relative term in Westeros) than her ancestors were, and I don’t think she’ll be down with incest either. But they seem to have really fallen for each other, so this is going to be painful for them.

V: Even thinking about the eventual breakup is making me uncomfortable. It would have been best if this hadn’t happened at all. Every time it shows them together I can’t tell if it’s supposed to be sweet or nauseating, but the latter is closer to what I feel. On a different note, how did you feel about the small scene where Arya and Sandor Clegane, aka the Hound, are reunited?

Gane of Thrones, Winterfell, Arya

A: I liked how they talk to each other like warriors. They acknowledge what she did to him, but he doesn’t seem to hold a grudge, which he hinted at when he spoke to Brienne last season. I’d like for there to be reconciliation between them; he still cares about her, and with the coming battles he’ll have plenty of opportunity to prove himself to her.

V: I remember being annoyed when Brienne supposedly “killed” him. This show creates a lot of situations whether neither party is wrong, and those can be the tensest dilemmas. I liked their little interaction too, and her telling him to leave Gendry alone. I also got a feeling she and Gendry like each other, but it wasn’t a big deal, and I may even be reading too much into it. 

A: No, I definitely got that sense as well. Lord knows she could use a little happiness and normalcy when this is over. That’s assuming he doesn’t die horribly or get turned into an ice zombie and she has to kill him or something. They may have already smiled enough for Game of Thrones.

V: If Brienne and Tormund have any more scenes together, the outcome could be bad there, too. I don’t think the show will have a happy ending, just a bittersweet one all around. But we’ll see.

Game of Thrones - "Winterfell"

Plot - 8
Acting - 10
Progression - 10
Production Design - 10
Intrigue - 9

9.4

Great

"Winterfell" is a good start to the final season, setting the scene for the coming war and establishing conflicts among the main characters.

Tags
Show More

Leave a Reply

2 Comments

Leave a Reply

Back to top button
Close
Close